Carly Rae Jepsen's knack for crafting songs that are as approachable as they are catchy makes her one of the most joyful pop stars to emerge in the 2010s. After her global success with the Grammy-nominated 2012 smash "Call Me Maybe," she expanded on her sunny, uninhibited style. On her debut album, 2012's Kiss, she channeled the rush of first love — as well as stylish influences like Kimbra, Robyn, and La Roux — into songs that were swooning yet relatable. She pursued this niche further on 2015's critically acclaimed E-MO-TION, a love letter to the epic '80s sound of Madonna and Prince that set trends in late-2010s pop and made her a pop culture fixture. Jepsen's range continued to grow with the laid-back '70s disco homages of 2019's Dedicated, but the friendliness and indelible melodies of her music remained.
Jepsen spent her formative years absorbing pop culture in her hometown of Mission, British Columbia, Canada. She starred in productions of Annie, Grease, and The Wiz at her high school and became one of 25 female students to be admitted to the Canadian College of Performing Arts in Victoria, British Columbia. After graduation, Jepsen — who had relocated to Vancouver and worked as a barista and pastry chef assistant at a coffeehouse where she performed at open mic nights — was persuaded by her drama teacher to audition for Canadian Idol. Jepsen competed in the fifth season of Canadian Idol in 2007, ultimately winning third place and performing in the show's nationwide tour. Meanwhile, her demo for the competition caught the ear of manager Jonathan Simkin, who helped her get a deal with 604 Records. In 2008, she released her folky debut LP, Tug of War, which featured a cover of John Denver's 1974 hit ballad "Sunshine on My Shoulders." The album's singles "Tug of War" and "Bucket" were both Top 40 hits on the Canadian Hot 100.
For her second album, Jepsen went a more danceable pop direction. Working with Josh Ramsay of Marianas Trench — who appeared on Tug of War and also took Jepsen on tour with his band — as well as Ryan Stewart and Tavish Crowe, she premiered her new sound with the 2011 single "Call Me Maybe." In 2012, it became the best-selling single of the year, topping the Canadian, U.S., and U.K. charts as well as those of 18 other countries, and ultimately earned a Grammy Award nomination for Song of the Year and won a Juno Award for Single of the Year. The Curiosity EP, which featured "Call Me Maybe," followed in early 2012. That June, the Owl City duet "Good Time" arrived and peaked at number eight on the Billboard charts. Jepsen's second album, Kiss, appeared in September 2012. It debuted in the Top Ten in Canada and the U.S. and won Album of the Year and Pop Album of the Year Juno Awards a year later. The Japan-only release Kiss: The Remixes appeared in 2013.
Jepsen began work on her third album in early 2013, collaborating with producers Ramsay, Stewart, and Max Martin on songs inspired by '80s pop and folk. In early 2014, she began a 12-week run as the lead role in the Broadway production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. She returned with new music in March 2015 with "I Really Like You," which became another Top 40 hit. Featuring collaborations with songwriters including Sia, Devonté Hynes, and Ariel Rechtshaid, and producers such as Mattman & Robin and Greg Kurstin, her third full-length, E-MO-TION, arrived that August. Boasting a more mature sound, the album was a Top Ten hit in Canada and a Top 20 hit in the U.S., and was ultimately shortlisted for the 2016 Polaris Prize. Jepsen made appearances on Bleachers' Terrible Thrills, Vol. 2 in 2015 and the Knocks' debut album a year later.
In early 2016, Jepsen played Frenchy in the live television performance of Grease and recorded the theme song to Fuller House, the reboot of the family sitcom Full House. In August 2016, she released E-MO-TION: Side B, an EP featuring eight tracks that had been in consideration for the album. The following May, another E-MO-TION outtake, "Cut to the Feeling," featured in the animated film Leap, in which Jepsen voiced the character Odette. Following a tour with Katy Perry, in November 2018 Jepsen released the single "Party for One." For her fourth album, she wrote almost 200 songs, with the feel-good sounds of ABBA and Donna Summer among her wide-ranging inspirations. Featuring collaborations with Jack Antonoff, Patrik Berger, Tavish Crowe, and Captain Cuts, Dedicated arrived in May 2019 and balanced its '70s disco influences with tropical pop and other 2010s trends. It debuted at number 18 on the Billboard 200, becoming her third Top 20 album. Dedicated Side B, an album-length collection of outtakes, appeared a year after Dedicated's release. ~ Heather Phares & James Christopher Monger